Pro Am Games: A First Descent Fundraiser

After finishing up with Nationals Championships at Pigeon Point, I headed over to the Nantahala Outdoor Center on the Nantahala River where I volunteered to be a Pro at the World Kayak Pro Am games.  It’s a competition where a pro is matched up with a few amateur kayakers who are trying to improve while supporting an awesome charity, First Descents, a camp for cancer survivors ages 18-34.  I was teamed up with Cat, Sierra, Lilly, and Olivia and I couldn’t have asked for a better team, they were motivated, excited, and we all had a blast!  

    After the boaters meeting, we all hopped in our boats and started to figure out the feature, what we wanted to work on, and what we were going to do in our rides.  Two of my girls hadn’t surfed much so I sent them up with Jason Miller to the top wave to work on some skills, while I helped Sierra and Cat in the competition hole.  After a couple hours everyone had a great ride figured out and it was time to compete.  

Sarah Ruhlen

Sarah Ruhlen

    The mens teams went first with 8 teams of 2 to 3 amateurs with each pro, and the women went last, with 2 teams  of 4 jr. women as amateurs and Rowan and I as the Pros.  Everyone on my team got their whole ride and we had an amazing time doing it, and we were all smiling the whole time!  We even had a special plan for our teams last ride (at the 15 second buzzer we all went in and swam!).  In the end, my team was first and Matt Anger’s team won the men’s. It was a successful fundraiser for First Descents with over $4000 being raised, and huge thanks to Jason and Samantha Miller for putting this event on. Great job to everyone who competed and helped. make this an awesome event!

Freestyle National Championships!

This year, Freestyle Nationals were held at the amazing PigeonRiver in Hartford, TN at the NOC Outpost.  We drove straight from Outdoor Retailer/Canoe and Kayak Awards to The Pigeon so I could get about 6 days of training in after over a month out of my play boat because I was slalom racing in Europe.  As soon as we arrived, I hopped in the water to start feeling out the hole.  It was a little different from last year because it had been washed out, but the raft guides had done an amazing job at rebuilding it!  I was having a great time training and was getting all of my moves plus learning how to entry move so I was stoked for the competition.

    On competition day, a bunch of awesome Jr. Women showed up to compete and we had a total of 5 in our class, almost all of them being between the ages of 11 and 14!  Everyone was super excited for it to start and we all warmed up in the low, flat water  while waiting for the water to arrive from the dam above.  Once the water was down to the feature, all of the Jr. Women jumped in for a quick warm up, then it was go time!  my first ride was pretty good, getting my entry move, loop, space godzillas, mcnasty, and felix, but my second ride for prelims was awesome!  I got my Mcnasty, loop, space godzillas, felix, phonix monkey, and cartwheels! That ride put me in first going into finals, it was also my new high score (650)!   

    After everyone else’s prelims were finished, it was time for finals.  Jr. Women were first again and I was pumped.  I got my entry move again on my first ride, and most of my tricks, but was only able to pull off a 480.  In the end, I was 1st, Rowan Stuart was 2nd, Sierra Wainer was 3rd, Cat Hardman was 4th, and Kathryn Walker was 5th.  Huge thanks Chris Wing and Risa Shomoda and everyone who helped with and organized the event, and NOC for letting us use their awesome facility!     

Here are the final Results. Sadly, there were no women that competed in the National Championships.


Jordan Poffenberger - 960

Seth Chapelle - 760

Tad Dennis - 660

Hank Hibbert - 250

Jeff Harris - 0

Micajah McCurry

K1 Women, Jr.

Sage Donnelly - 480

Rowan Stuart - 400

Sierra Wainer - 170

Cat Hardman - 40

Catherine Walker - 20

K1 Men, Jr.

Hunter Katich - 1630

Bennett Smith - 1230

Miles Murphy - 580

Kenya Ingram - 510

Devon Wainer - 280

K1 Men 

Mike Patterson - 1250

Tommy Yon - 1170

Matt Anger - 1050

Yonton Mehler - 870

Brad Caldwell - 300

The Perfect Day! Slalom, Freestyle and The Cascades!

After 3 weeks in Europe for slalom racing, and spending about 24 hours at home doing a mad packing of my van, we drove across the country to North Carolina and Tennessee so I could train for Freestyle Nationals at Pigeon Point and compete in a few races at NOC. (Nantahala Outdoor Center) What I wasn’t expecting was to have one of the most perfect days on the water imaginable!

     It started with a slalom race at NOC hosted by the Georgia Canoe Association and I competed in both K1 and C1, receiving 2 1st place rubber duckie awards for jr. women’s slalom.  I had the second fastest women’s time, just a few tenths of a second behind Zuzana Montagne, and  my C1 runs were also awesome, putting me right behind the amazing Colleen Hickey in overall women’s.  I met a lot of new junior’s racing who also liked to freestyle, so once the races were over, we all changed into our freestyle gear and boats and hit the hole!  It was a lot of fun throwing down with so many talented kids and I was able to get some great rides. 

    Not long ago, some friends of mine from California moved to Knoxville, TN. Daniel Brasuell and Diane Gaydos are incredible kayakers who run a whitewater guide site called It was originally a guide to California Rivers, but includes a lot of south east and international rivers.  Daniel mentioned the Cascades were running and wanted to know if I wanted to paddle with him…..of course I did!

I had been wanting to run it for a while, but slalom always got in the way :p.  We met Dan Stewart at the put in for this fun class 4/5 run, looked at the lines and I was stoked- it was boof mania, and I was in heaven! The first two laps went really well, I nailed every line and landed flat on all of my boofs.  On my third lap though, I asked to lead! I remembered all of the lines and everything went smoothly. Thanks for the run Daniel and Dan!  I ended the day with some delicious gluten free pizza from River's End at NOC and then crashed hard and slept with a big grin- slalom K1 and C1, freestyle and a personal first descent on a new creek, all in one day!  

    My weekend wasn’t over however, and I had another first on Sunday!  I was able to do my first wildwater race in a wildwater boat. I competed in an 8 mile down river race on the Nantahala and it was super fun. I figured out how to turn the wildwater boat, had some fast lines, and kept a steady pace, and ended up with the 4th fastest overall time and fastest Women's time (I'm going to have to get a boat!). After the race, I was able to do some more playboating with friend’s, followed by a ladies C1 slalom session with Colleen Hickey and Sara Rulhen. Huge thanks to Chris Hipgrave for helping me find a wildwater boat, Tierney O’Sullivan for letting me borrow her boat, and Colleen for letting me try her Scream C1 (I'm in love).

    Next adventure- Freestyle Nationals at Pigeon Point!

My First Trip to Europe: Competing in the European Union Jr. Cup!

this year I was able to compete internationally for my first time! I went with My slalom team, Team Colorado Whitewater Racing Club, our coach Jordi, and my parents to compete in the European Jr. Slalom Cup which featured an under 14 category. We landed in Milan, Italy, where Jordi and another coach (Cristian from Spain) picked us up and drove us straight to Solkan, Slovenia. After settling into our amazing hotel one block from the course, Hotel Solkan, we immediately started to train.  It was a super fun course and the water was a gorgeous, light, aquamarine blue which made the paddling that much more exciting.   After a few days of training, we were ready for race day. The course had a lot of offsets and looked really fun and there were about 25 under 14 jr. women registered to race! My first runs were pretty good and I made it into finals in K1 and C1.  My second runs were even better and I finished 3rd in C1 and 5th  in K1. A new course was set for the next day and then it was off to bed.  The next morning, I was super excited to race and my runs were even better than the day before. I made it to finals in K1 and C1 again. I ended up 5th in K1 and 3rd in C1!

The water color was awesome!

    We left Solkan and drove to Augsburg, Germany for the next comp. It was the first time I had been on an artificial course since I was 9 (The Olympic Training Center in North Carolina and ASCI in Maryland) and I loved it!  The facility was incredible, with 3 different channels and several different buildings which housed hundreds of boats belonging to the local race clubs.  There were even more athletes competing in this race so the courses were very crowded. After some 4 a.m. morning training sessions (we had it all to ourselves!) we were familiar with the course and I was stoked for the race! I made it to finals again on both days in K1 and C1 and I was 5th in K1 and 4th in C1 overall.

     In the morning, we did one more session in Augsburg before driving Ceske Budijoce in the Czech Republic, probably my new favorite course!  It had a lot of holes and you could use their curlers to go from one side of the river to the other, it was a blast.  Unfortunately, we only had two 45 minute training sessions before the race! The course was tricky, but we had practiced most of the moves and I was super stoked for the race!  My runs were pretty good on the first day and I was 3rd in C1 and 4th in K1, but the next morning, I became really sick and was unable to race in the last of the European Jr. Cup Race that we were attending. Luckily, I had a quick recovery and was able to race the next day in The Wave competition, a local, open race (no age separations) and I had an incredible K1 run and ended up 16th out of about 50 women making the cut for finals, and in C1 I was 9th, missing the cut by a few seconds and 1 place.  My finals run was not my best, but I ended up 12th overall, barley missing making the top 10 to go to finals. I was still super happy with my runs and was sad to leave, but it's been nice being back in the US. Now i'm training for freestyle nationals and Jr. Slalom Team Trials! I finally old enough to make the team!!!  

A View From My Helmet: Vail Mountain GoPro Games, Homestake Extreme Creek Race

Here is a quick video of the Homestake Race at the Vail Mountain Games I made using my GoPro video camera. Enjoy the view from my helmet!

13 year old Sage Donnelly wins second place in the GoPro Mountain Games, Homesteak Creek Race in Vail, Colorado. 2014. For more about Sage Donnelly visit:

Reno River Festival, 2011

This weekend I competed in The Reno River Festival where I had a great time and I was happy to see all of my friends. I competed in freestyle on Friday and I was 2nd behind Hannah Kertesz, and Emery Tillman was 3rd. It was held in hole 3 on the North Channel but the water was very high so it was flushy. We each had 3 rides and the best ride counted. Even though it was flushy I still was able to get my loop, round house, and spin. For Men’s Freestyle Stephen Wright, Eric Jackson, and Dustin Urban were the top 3. For Women’s Freestyle Ruth Gordan Ebens, Emily Jackson, and Erin Clancy were the top 3. Saturday was the slalom race and I was 3rd in Women’s open and E.J. was 1st in men’s open. The weather was perfect and the river was even higher making it a challenging course. Thanks for the great course Charlie! Sunday was boater cross and I made it into the 2nd round where I took a paddle to my face so I finished 4th. As always, I enjoyed meeting people and talking to kids about kayaking throughout the weekend, and the festival was also a great fundraiser for my friend Jason Craig who was injured in a kayaking accident and my friend Daniel and I picked the raffle tickets for great prizes. 

Thank you for putting on a great event!

King of the Hole
King of the Hole
freestyle podium
freestyle podium
Jason Craig Fundraising raffle
Jason Craig Fundraising raffle

Awesome New Boat Color!

I just received my new Rasta (red, yellow, and green) Shooting Star kid’s playboat and I love it! Jackson Kayak also has Goth available (green, white, and black) as a standard color for boats now. The first thing I did was head down to the Reno Whitewater Park to try it out on a nice, high flow of about 900 cfs. It was super easy to loop and cartwheel. I was also able to try my new orange Lightning Freeride Junior paddle available through Jackson kayak, and it’s awesome! It is very light and easy to get used too.

With a very high snowpack this year, all of California and Nevada’s rivers are running high and will be for sometime, so I am spending lots of time in my Jackson Sidekick too. It is a very stable river runner and creek boat that I have been using since I was 7 and ran most of the rapids on the Grand Canyon in. Mom always said I looked like a weeble that wobbled but wouldn’t fall down! It boofs like a dream, punches holes easily, and pops up from drops like a cork. If you have a child who wants to get into kayaking, this is the perfect boat to start them in!

Right now, I am packing my van to head down to Kernville, Ca. for the Kernriver Festival where I hope to compete in the Brush Creek Race (if it’s not too high!) and slalom race. I will also be doing some fundraising for my friend and teammate Jason Craig, so if you like earrings, look for me!  Then it’s home to prepare for the Reno River Festival! Hope to see you there!

My First Personal Descent of the Year!

Last week I was able to do a personal first decent, my first one for the year! It was E to P on the South Yuba River near Nevada City, Ca. It is a class 4 river and it was lots of fun and had a couple a really cool boofs. My favorite rapids were called Corner Pocket, and  Door #3. The water was a little low but perfect for my first run, and the weather was perfect and sunny.  The next day, we ran over to the NF of the American and ran Chamberlain Falls, a river that I had run for the first time last year. Once again we had beautiful weather and I had a great time. My favorite rapid on Chamberlain is called Bogus Thunder. It has a really fun ferry and a couple of holes you have to punch. Unfortunately, no one had a camera so I don't have any pictures. It is starting to cool down in California and Nevada again, but there is always a river running somewhere. See you on the river, Sage

Brush Creek Video!

This year I was able to head down to Kernville, Ca and run Brush Creek, a class 4 creek that drops into the Kern River. It has lots of drops and slides, the biggest being a 20 foot waterfall! I had a blast! This is now my new favorite river. I also entered the Brush Creek Triple Crown series where I was the youngest contestant and placed 36th out of 39 on the down river race, 17th in the extreme slalom race and then I was 1st in the standard slalom race and ended up being top female overall! I also was able to qualify for Jr. Olympics at NOC this year and am very excited. Please check out this vidoe of mainly Triple Drop where the extreme slalom race was held. Sage Donnelly - Brush Creek, 2010

Climbing Snake Dike in Yosemite

snake dike Click on the link to see the climb!

In October I made the decision to climb a 5.7 route up Half Dome called Snake Dike. It is an 8 pitch climb with a final hike up to the top of Half Dome and it is estimated to take about 4 hours to hike up to, 4 to climb, and another 4 to hike out.  We started out by waking up at 2:30 am and leaving by 3:30 to start hiking up, My Dad, our friend Brett and my Mom all started the hike, but my Mom turned around after a few hours so she could take care of the dogs in our van. She carried extra food and water and my pack to Nevada Falls and then my dad carried my pack. We got a little lost on our hike and didn't get to the base of the climb until 10 am, and there were 8 people getting ready to climb it ahead of us! We managed to finally get on the rock at 12 and started climbing. It took a long time because we kept catching up to the climbers ahead of us and having to wait until they cleared the route, but the views were incredible!  We didn't get to the top of Half Dome until about 7"30 pm and took a break to take our harnesses off and eat a little food. Dad called Mom and she started hiking up again with extra water and sleeping bags just in case we bonked on the way down. I have to admit I was pretty tired and Dad actually carried me for about an hour on the hike down. We met up with Mom at about 11:30 pm and still had to hike down Vernal Falls. We didn't get back to camp until 1 am and Mom made some lentil soup and then we all crashed!  We woke up the next morning at about 8 and were refreshed and happy, but we had to pack up camp and leave. It was a great experience and I can't wait to go back! While in Yosemite, I also saw a bear, a bobcat and a California King Snake. I also got to meet one of the worlds greatest climbers- Ron Kauk! I watched a movie he was in and bought his book and he signed it for me and told me to email him so we could climb. It was super cool!